Having missed the Melbourne opening night of the new revival of A Chorus Line I took myself along this week and found out that there was a very good reason for the all the sold out performances and extensions to the season.
A mesmerizing performance by a cast of true triple threats, the wow factor ran high right throughout the night. From the moment the lights came up, energy, passion and skill were at peak levels, riveting the audience’s attention throughout the 130 minute running time.
When staging a production of the greatest dance musical of all time, the temptation would surely be to spend all the rehearsal time on the choreography. The dancing is absolutely top notch here but the extra achievement is the incredibly detailed work on characterization, body language and accents. (A more perfectly realised set of American accents in an Australian show is hard to recall)
Right from the beginning of that fabulous first dance audition, the classic characters are instantly identifiable amongst the crowd. There’s Morales! Gregory Gardener! Paul! Connie! That must be Al and Kristine! And that stunning adult blonde has to be Sheila! Early action is also enhanced by wittily obvious problems of the dancers who are set to be cut in the first round.
Full credit to original Broadway cast member Bayoork Lee for this stunning accomplishment. Humour and pathos, camaraderie and rivalry, tension and resolution are all there in abundance. The spectacular dancing, drilled to perfection, is a joy to behold but it is the interesting and varied stage positioning of actors at other times, a consideration often overlooked, that is the sign of a true master at work.
Highlights amongst the cast are multiple. Joshua Horner, consigned to acting by voice alone for most of the show, is a commanding presence as director Zach. Karlee Misipeka is a sympathetic and involving Diana Morales. Scott Morris bursts with youthful exuberance as newcomer Mark. Kurt Douglas is a sassy, high volume Richie. Rohan Browne succeeds in playing against type as ponderous homosexual Gregory and his dancing is a dream.
Standout discovery of the cast is the shimmering Debora Krizak as world weary Sheila. The resume of the gorgeous, statuesque Krizak (picture a young Kim Cattrall) is relatively slim but her terrific acting, singing and dancing, not to mention presence, surely indicate a busy future on stage. The dejected Sheila’s final walk along the line is a masterstroke.
Finally, the two best-known sequences, both coming one after the other at the eleventh hour, are absolutely blown out of the auditorium. Australian born Anita Louise Combe, monopolized for far too long by the London, and world, stage is in total control as the desperate Cassie. Combe’s singing is of a quality that is almost operatic, her acting is surprisingly, and effectively, understated and her dancing is outstanding. Euan Doidge perfectly captures the fragile resolve of the heavily troubled Paul, the audience hanging on every word of the impeccably sensitive delivery of his monologue.
The current staging, easily as good as the recent Broadway revival, thankfully helps wipe away the memory of the lamentably dreary 1990s Australian tour. Congratulations to Producer Tim Lawson and team.